Tag Archives: kids

Hello World. Yes, I’m Alive. And I’m in Japan.

Usually when I lose my job I fester in self pity and despair. Not this time world. I’ve been traveling in Japan for the past two weeks and have another week-or-so to go.

The first bit was lovely and stressful with my husband and sister traveling with me through Tokyo and Kyoto (and I planned the whole trip, so it was like work even though also fun.) Now, I’m traveling for a while on my own — which honestly I don’t like that much but
I feel it’s good for me to get away from reality for a while and experience new cultures…

I spent way too much on the first chunk of the trip, but now am doing about $50-$70 a day, which isn’t so bad… hostels get old after a while but they do make it possible to extend travel for ultra cheap, even in high-cost-of-living areas. I really needed this time alone on my own at the moment to regroup and focus on what matters in life, versus sitting in my room all day, staring at the wall and doing nothing outside of applying to jobs and sinking further into depression.

I’ve been out of work now for less than three weeks and I already miss it. I feel like one big solution to my failure to be a good employee is how I am obsessed with working. Even now that I HAVE NO JOB and don’t have to work, I crave having work. It gives me purpose and I need purpose when life is all so chaotic and impossible to control. I like working, only because I can succeed at something, even if for a short while, and even if that victory doesn’t last.

I really want to find a job that I can maintain… I’m looking for something lower level… I think I want full-time as the idea of freelancing sounds good until it’s reality and one never gets any time off and has to constantly pitch herself to obtain gigs and beg people to pay on time which requires a whole host of organization skills I do not have and do not expect to acquire anytime soon. I’d rather find a lower-paying job where I can work for a company that I believe in (with a “for good” mission) and where I can be good at my job. I still am not sure if it makes sense to drop from $200k-ish in salary to $100k in salary but at this point I have $0k in salary so really it’s not much of a drop, now is it?

I plan to start applying for jobs slowly this summer and more aggressively in October after my very belated honeymoon trip (separate form this Japan trip) … I think by then I’ll be more than ready to get back into the swing of life-slavery and have kicked the travel bug which is that buzzing noise always saying “you make good money but don’t have time to travel before you have kids which is the only time you’ll have to travel until you’re old and retired and can’t walk.” So, I’ve checked off much of Japan and I’ll hit New Zealand and possibly Australia in early fall… I have many other places on my list but for now I’m reminded how wonderful yet how DRAINING traveling is and how two weeks of travel really is ENOUGH unless you want to push yourself beyond your comfort zone (or you just love travel in a way I love my bed at home and cuddling in my husband’s arms.)

Grass is always greener.

I’m tempted to start applying to a zillion jobs now but it doesn’t make sense… I need to figure out what I want first. And I have a few things coming up and the trip in September so – if I can play my cards right I’ll have a job offer by mid September then go on my trip and come back to employment. That would be perfect. Well, I still need to figure out the whole baby-making thing since, surprise, surprise, my first foray into infertility treatments didn’t work (and I’m $2000 in the hole so far form them, yippee.) I probably should try REALLY hard to get a job at a company that covers infertility treatments because even with a $100k job that will be worth a lot for a year or two. If only one of those fancy big companies would hire me… but they won’t… because the only companies who will hire me want someone who will do 290852093582095820958230958 jobs for the price and headcount of one, i.e. small companies who want one person to do the job that would be done by a team at a larger company. And, so, that’s probably where I’ll end up again… but I’m going to try to get out of this vicious cycle and focus on having kids, if possible.

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Should I Freeze My Eggs or Embryos?

It used to be funny when I thought to myself that I’m putting off my “best” childbearing years throughout my 20s. Being the hot mess that I am, I couldn’t imagine having kids then. Given that it takes nine months to have a kid and I’m nearing 33, chances are I won’t actually have my first child until I’m 34 — if I actually am lucky and can have kids.

One option for women who want to (or may want to) give birth later in life (i.e. after you naturally would be able to) is freezing eggs. Some big tech companies even (disturbingly) offer their female employees this as a “perk” of working at their companies (don’t have kids when you can slave away for us instead and maybe one day when you’re old and tired you can possibly for the cost of a new car produce one child if you’re lucky.) Anyway… egg freezing is an interesting concept. I haven’t seriously thought about it until just about now.

Thirty-three is old. It’s not old, old – as in, “I’m a senior citizen” old – but it’s old for wanting to start a family. It’s unfortunate that this is the case because any millisecond before my 33rd birthday (as in right now) I wouldn’t feel ready to be a mother. But I think by 34 I’ll be ok at it. Or at least wise enough to breathe through the crazy and figure it out.

At this point in time, I’m trusting that I’ll be able to have my first kid naturally. That’s a bit of a big leap of faith given that with PCOS I have very irregular periods (though they’ve been getting more regular in my ripe old age) and who knows if I ovulate. I’m playing the “if I will it to happen it will” game at the moment. I’ll probably need some kind of help, at least ovulation drugs, to make a baby. I don’t know. It might not be possible anyway. Maybe all of my eggs suck.

But assuming that somewhere buried under my belly button are two ovaries that like any good life-bearing ovaries want to do are ready to create life (even though they’re covered in cysts.) And, let’s assume that I have enough good eggs left in me to make a few children should choose to be so genetically prolific. Ok, I’m still getting older, and given my first child now isn’t making an entrance into this world until I’m 34 or 35, there’s no guarantee I’ll be able to run into the same luck in my late 30s. Why not freeze my eggs now?

It’s a serious question with serious cost associated with it and absolutely no guarantees.

I won’t be alone if I decide to have this procedure done. 76,000 American women are predicted to be undergoing the procedure by 2018 (up from just 500 in 2009 and 5,000 in 2013).

To start, I suppose I ought to go for one of those $99 “pre-IVF tests” that checks up on your fertility. That’s not a lot to invest in to find out that you are infertile and will never have kids (hashtag avoidance) — “this pre-IVF testing takes into account your age, BMI, reproductive history and mostly, your ovarian function, which is based on two hormonal tests: FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) and estradiol, a form of estrogen. These two tests are done from a blood draw taken on the third day of your menstrual cycle. When you enter this data to the Univfy website, a personalized report is created that shows your relative chances of success with IVF treatments or egg freezing. The report costs $99.

Gilbert Mottla, a reproductive endocrinologist at the Shady Grove Fertility Center in the District of Columbia, says the clinic has traditionally seen a lot of older, professional women, the typical demographic of egg freezers in a cosmopolitan city. But increasingly younger women are seeking it, too. “Thirty-one to 32 … That’s an incredible opportunity to freeze eggs,” Mottla says. “It’s like an insurance policy. Those eggs may serve for her second or third pregnancy.

Ok so I m that miss that 31-32 year old window soon, but if I freeze my eggs at 33, maybe that’s actually a great idea. Maybe I’ll be so happy to have my own eggs later when I’m 38 and want to have my second child and it’s just not happening naturally.

The average cost of egg freezing in the U.S. is $10,000, which covers the tests, extraction, and storage. This doesn’t account for the cost to actually put those eggs back inside you later. Sorry kids, you’re not going to college on my dime, I put your college tuition to making you exist. Oh, and the success rate is just 24% for actually having a live birth from one of these eggs (each cycle) so, you’re still a miracle.

Apparently, you can free your embryos instead of your eggs, and that’s a whole lot more effective. This is something I would look into. Instead of freezing your sad lonely woman eggs, you freeze pre-fertilized eggs and little Sammy or Jimmy or Jen stay frozen in some lab for years until you decide to let them grow into a real person. (Science is weird.)

Embryo freezing has a much higher success rate — 25%-50%, so that seems like the way to go if you have a committed partner and/or don’t mind your future children to have their DNA. Since I’m married and plan on remaining married, this seems like a really good idea.

What worries me most is if we go through the painful, frustrating and expensive process of freezing embryos, we’ll keep putting off actually having kids. I’d have to get Mr. HECC on board with it, and perhaps he would be, but then we’d prob just keep saying “now isn’t the right time to have kids, let’s wait until we’re ready.”

I have nothing against older moms but I don’t want to be too old when I have kids. I already feel like I missed the boat.

For women who want to wait until their 40 to have kids, if they have to go the IVF route, they can save $15,000 by freezing their eggs in advance.

Unfortunately, moving ahead with this means dealing with the reality of being a fucking nutcase for a few weeks while I inject myself with hormones and let a doctor put a needle up my woo-ha and retrieve “mature” egg cells from my ovary. Sounds like truck loads of fun (remind me again why women are historically considered the “weaker” sex?)

A study found that 62 percent of women who freeze their eggs at age 35 and try to get pregnant at age 40 would successfully have a baby, with the average total cost of the procedures leading to the birth coming to $39,946.

Just 42 percent of women who tried to get pregnant at age 40 using IVF with newly retrieved eggs would have a baby, with costs totaling $55,060, on average.

Under a third scenario, women freeze their eggs at age 35, and then at age 40, they try conventional IVF. Only if those newly retrieved eggs don’t work do they proceed to use frozen eggs. Women in this situation would spend an average of $61,887 — making it the most costly option in the study. But this scenario also had the highest success rate, with 74 percent eventually giving birth, the researchers said. —livescience

This is how the science works, kids:

  • woman stabs herself with hormones for a few weeks so she produces a lot of eggs
  • doctor goes in and sucks up those eggs
  • doctor puts sperm in eggs to fertilize them (man does not need to stab self with hormones or get doctor to reach up into him to get said sperm)
  • fertilized embryo is frozen in nitrogen and awaits being defrosted to be put back up inside the woman in an IVF cycle when she may or may not be able to “hold onto” the embryo and make a kid.

#Magic

But it’s not really a bad idea. What if I can’t have kids for years and I decide IVF is the only option… if I have some good fertilized eggs from when I “was” 33, then that’s always a good backup plan. It’s a $10,000 backup plan, but it might be worth the investment. Afterall, kids aren’t exactly cheap anyway (they say they cost $250k per child to raise through 18) so what’s another $10k?

 

 

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How Lack of Maternity Leave Hurts Working Women

I’m 32 going on 33 and my biological clock is tick-tock ticking. If I’m going to have at least one child, it’s most likely going to occur within the next 1-3 years of my life. I have significant savings so I can afford to take time off to have a kid, but that doesn’t make the whole lack of maternity leave situation any less stressful.

The US is still the only developed country that doesn’t guarantee paid maternity leave. In fact, the US is one of just two countries in the world that doesn’t ensure any paid time off for new moms, according to a report from the International Labor Organization. The other: Papua New Guinea. Continue reading

Who can afford to have kids?

Now that I’m getting around to this whole phase of my life where I will be trying to get pregnant (soon), the actual cost of kids is rolling towards me like a giant boulder chasing after Indiana Jones. Kids. Are. Damn. Expletive. Expensive.

Mr. HECC and myself are in a very good financial state compared to most people our age. We have $0 in college loans thanks to our parents covering our undergraduate tuition in full (I don’t know how we’ll be able to give the same gift to our future children) and we don’t have any other debt. We own our cars (which we bought used) outright and while our rent is not super cheap, we can afford to pay it on one income should one of us lose a job at some point – at least for a little while. And, together, we have about $450k saved up. For newlyweds in our early 30s, we’re doing ok.

Still, the cost of having children almost seems prohibitively expensive. I’ve been reading a lot of forums where they detail the cost of the basics – childcare, food, some activities, et al, and it adds up fast. Apparently pre-school around here costs about $2k a month or more ($24k a year.) Ouch. No wonder many of my friends ended up choosing to leave work, at least temporarily, to raise their kids as stay-at-home moms or part-time workers.

Since my income is much higher than Mr. HECC (and currently I’m the only one with work-provided insurance) it looks like if anyone ends up staying home to take care of our hypothetical future children, it will be him. I think I’m ok with that, but I also know he isn’t the “take care of the house” type so I’ll still have to at least be the main cleaner (which isn’t my forte.) He’ll cook so at least we have that covered. I’d be the full time worker, house cleaner and financial lead of our household. I’m pretty sure that my stress levels – which aren’t that low right now – will be through the roof should I have kids. The numbers just don’t make sense.

Clearly, lots of people have kids. Lots of people with a lot more debt than we do have kids. Lots of people who will never be able to take a vacation or enjoy a night out have kids. People have kids. Or they don’t. But it’s rare that a couple really analyzes the cost of children and then decides to have them because it’s a smart financial decision. It costs about $250k to raise a kid BEFORE college costs are involved. So it’s about $500k just to raise a kid if you’re going to pay for their undergraduate education, give or take $100k. Mr. HECC rolls his eyes at those figures – he grew up in a pretty modest household and their family trips were going camping in national parks and he never owned new clothes, so he doesn’t have the same kind of expectations that I do for our children. That said, I also now acknowledge that the amount of new toys I had as a child was ridiculous and I didn’t need to spend thousands of dollars on trendy clothes each year at the mall. There’s definitely somewhere in between our childhoods that we can settle on. No matter what, it’s going to be very expensive.

I feel that I’m now on the edge of this cliff looking at the abyss of a very frugal life, and back at my life so far where, despite ups and downs in my career, I’ve had quite a few luxuries and still have been able to save a substantial amount. I think about the “DINK” lifestyle – dual income, no kids – and wonder if maybe that’s the way to go. I don’t have that long to decide… if I want kids, I have to have them soon. It may come to having to spend tens of thousands of dollars on fertility treatments to have a kid, which adds to the cost of actually having them.

I’m not complaining about the costs, just trying to be realistic with if this makes any sense, or if I should stop and think a lot harder on whether or not it makes sense to have kids given my inability to keep a stable job and my husband’s lack of motivation to increase his earning potential. We’re both doing quite fine without children, but with kids – even one kid – things will change. And it’s not something you can take back once you have them, so you better be damn sure you want them before you do.

I AM sure I want kids, however. I want two children and Mr. HECC and I have already named them. I don’t know if I can have them, and I’m not quite sure yet if I’d be devastated if I’m unable to have kids, but I know that if I can have them I want them. It makes absolutely no sense yet that’s pretty much all I can think about these days. I don’t have any fairytales about having kids being easy either. I see my friend’s kids and they are all pains in the asses, even the ones that are relatively calm and charming. But – I have so much love in me it’s bursting at the seams, and I’m tired of living life for work. I want to live life for family and build a strong and stable and hopefully happy family and lots of memories before I kick the bucket.

So then the question becomes WHEN to have kids. I’ll be 33 this fall, which is old in baby-making years, especially for a first child when your goal is to have two – it’s very unlikely at this point I’ll have my first kid before I’m 34. I’ve always wanted to have my second by 36. I like the idea of having two kids close in age but at the same time having kids that close together is really, really, really hard – especially if the woman is the primary breadwinner of the household. I just don’t know how it all works. No matter how I picture it, everything breaks down. Either I quit my job, we move somewhere more cheaper, or both, and, still, that doesn’t help matters much. My savings that I’ve worked so hard to acquire slowly gets depleted until we’re in debt and can’t dig ourselves out. We have one medical emergency after another and we can’t afford good medical care and we end up on food stamps and we can’t help our children with their own issues so they end up in a vicious cycle of poverty.

Ok, so this is an exaggeration of what could happen, but I don’t see how anyone affords kids!?!

Wedded Bliss and Chaos and Thank God It’s Done

I’m back. From my wedding, that is. My ridiculously expensive, I now wish I could go back and revise my budget (and stick to my original budget) wedding where in the grand scheme of things I’m over the moon to be married despite it not really changing much of anything in my 10-year relationship. After a very short mini-moon we just returned home and things are back to normal, except I have a ring on my finger and he has one on his desk because it’s too tight and he needs to get it stretched. And, in the eyes of the government, we’re legit family now. If I die he gets my savings. I guess I should watch my back. 😉

So I have a lot to say about the wedding, but I’ve spent my last week spinning in circles on what went right and mostly what went wrong, and I’m not sure how much I can get out right now without going off a deep end. The wedding itself was lovely. People had fun – some told me it was the best wedding they’ve been to with such passion I actually believe them. The food was great (so I’m told, I didn’t get to eat much of it – damn missing cocktail hour for family pictures) and my band rocked (despite more than half of the guests spending most of the wedding outside on the beautiful balcony overlooking the lake and missing the entertainment.) I’m trying to look on the bright side of things because a lot went right at the wedding. The ceremony was magical and just perfect – his uncle officiated and we spent a lot of time revising the script so it really reflected us and wasn’t a standard boring wedding. It was super hot and I’m shocked none of the black-tux wearing groomsmen passed out, but other than that the ceremony was a success. Ok,  than the fact that my florist sucked and put the cheapest wrinkliest possible fabric on the previously beautiful birch-wood arch causing it look crappy and the violin-cello duet chose to play “Yesterday” right before my groom walked down the aisle (which, is a beautiful song, but “yesterday all my troubles seemed so far away now it it looks as though they’re here to stay” is not what you want to hear the second before you are to meet your wife at the alter, even if no actual lyrics were involved in the playing of the song at that point.) I’ll give the ceremony a 9/10. It wasn’t perfect, but it sure came close.

I’m such a perfectionist, of course, I’d never be fully satisfied with my own wedding – especially after spending – between my parents and myself – upwards of $70k or even more on one day. I haven’t added everything up yet, but I’m pretty sure we are at least at $70,000 total for a Sunday night wedding in June. I really wanted to stay under $40k and the original budget was $50k so… I failed. After the wedding, I worried I’d feel a huge letdown and be so ashamed to have spent that much money on one day and, while I do think it’s ridiculous, I felt that one day was so full of richness that it was more than just 24 hours. Or, as I tell my now-husband, I want to talk about the wedding every day for the next year at least and ensure it provides some entertainment to our lives so we can amortize the cost of it over the next 365 days. 🙂 But, really, while I know I’m very fortunate to be able to spend that much on a wedding – and equally aware that weddings that cost $5k or less can be just as memorable and wonderful – for me, and for my guests, it was the right wedding to throw. Looking back, I could have saved at least $10k by not splurging in places that didn’t matter (*cough*flowers*cough*) but mostly I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Except my florist and my dress.

My florist was an unfortunate mistake. She meant well -and the flowers weren’t awful by any means – but spending $4500 on flowers was something I was against from the beginning and by two months before my wedding I had gone off the deep end and gave into the wedding industry. My father was paying for the flowers and my parents kept telling me they wanted wedding flowers, nothing tacky (which means nothing cheap looking) and so – after my initial $2k florist flaked on getting me a contract – I was stuck with no florist and went with the best of what was still available, or so I thought. She was a lovely, passionate woman who tried really hard but in the end there’s a certain thing called talent and also something called skill and I think she lacked in both departments – maybe skill more-so than talent, but for $4500 I expect … more than what we got. Well, we got a lot of flowers, for sure, and they were fine – just not flow-y and green like I wanted. She didn’t get the style. The only thing that really bothered me, though, was the arch in the ceremony (now mentioned twice in this post.) The flower arrangements were huge — she says she needed to make them that big to cover the foam but my florist friend assures me that isn’t true. Then she added this horrid, horrible, no-good, going to ruin all my ceremony pictures and make me cringe fabric to drape on the beautiful birch wood arch. When I showed up to the venue and saw it, I freaked, and send the women there and my florist friend (who happened to be my bridesmaid) into a flurry trying to figure out what to do. I was not in the right brain mode to make decisions at that moment so when they asked me if they should cut it down, after one side was already cut down, I said no – and then they wrapped it to the pole making it too short and look even worse. What I realized later is that the drape of fabric at the top not only looked cheap as all hell but also casted horrible shadows on our faces – especially my groom’s face. I went back to the picture I showed her of the draping (as I did ask for this) and it featured a very, very skinny transparent and not-cheap looking fabric (i.e. no wrinkles, folds or pulls) and it barely covered the wood. Her version was just tacky. Later she told me I should have called her to come back but I wasn’t thinking straight at the time. She knows it looked worse once they cut it down and tied it but I was trying to fix things and going absolutely crazy. My $4500 flowers turned my almost-perfect ceremony aesthetically into quite a disappointing picture. — Then, my sweetheart table actually never had flowers on it — she had told someone at the venue to move the special arrangement she made for it to the table after the cocktail hour but whoever she told didn’t remember so we had no flowers on the main table that was being photographed all night. That was less of an issue but just something that I look back on now and realize damn, I should have hired a wedding coordinator for the day of the wedding. I really needed a wedding coordinator.

Ok, so the one thing I didn’t spend on – that I wish, I wish, I WISH I did was a wedding planner. Wedding planners come in all shapes and sizes and costs and not all would have been helpful. A planner for a full wedding (i.e. someone to do what I did in sourcing vendors and venue et al) would cost $5k or more. But month-of planners are around $1.5k-$2.5k. Most are $2k. They help you the month of the wedding make sure you’re not forgetting anything and most importantly manage the crazy that happens the day of the wedding to ensure nothing goes wrong. I desperately needed a month-of planner and almost splurged at the end for one, but at that point I was thinking I already had everything planned and my venue was known for its awesome on-site ceremony coordinators, so why should I spent another entire laptop computer to get someone to help manage the day. Ugh. Wrong decision.

If I had a day-of coordinator…

  1. I wouldn’t have been late in the morning so we would have had an hour more for pictures, and I would have gotten the bridal portraits that I wanted from my $7500 photographer that now I’m worried will have captured no decent pictures because they were all super rushed.
  2. My dress wouldn’t have been all disheveled in all the pictures and my necklace would have been straight because I’d have someone with me at all times to help me fix my outfit and look my best – which, when you’re spending $7500 on pictures, you want to have someone there to help you out. My photographer did not do that really. (*probably picked the wrong photographer and spent too much on that too – we’ll see.)
  3. My mother who freaked out the whole day, showed up super late to the venue, ended up screaming at my flower boy and causing his entire family to storm out of the wedding, would have maybe been a little more managed and manageable with the help of someone else – not sure this would have helped, but I really needed a partner in helping manage my mother who, at numerous points throughout the day, threw a temper tantrum and made a few people really upset/cry (including myself.)
  4. The venue wouldn’t have lost our important ceremony glass (that we poured in the ceremony and were to send off to an artist to make into a sculpture.) I have no idea how they lost this, but somehow it got misplaced. They still haven’t owned up to losing it yet, but where else did it go? It was in a vase that was also ours and that is gone, along with six glasses that had held the glass before we poured it. All gone. And they threw out extra copies of our ceremony programs that are worth $3.50 each (I splurged on those but they were amazing and I figured I’d have extra to frame/keep/send to the bridal party etc but nope, they threw them all out and claim they were all used/taken which is a lie.) If I had a coordinator they would have made a list of all the items to collect back at the end of the night and made sure things weren’t lost. I COULD have done that or assigned someone else to this job, but I forgot as I was focused so much on the wedding itself I didn’t think about after it. The venue did let us keep things there overnight and packed up all our stuff for us, which is nice, but then they lost these important items… I’m still really bummed about it. The sculpture place can get new glass and remake it but it kind of defeats the sentimental purpose of the glass pouring ceremony. The venue doesn’t seem to give a shit about it. I am going to write them a review today and see if it inspires any more compassion.
  5. I failed at feeding my bridal party properly the morning of the wedding, which was a mess. My friend helped source wraps for us but there weren’t enough and a lot of the bridal party didn’t notice they existed. I didn’t realize that most of the bridesmaids hadn’t eaten the free breakfast at the hotel or the wraps (that weren’t that great but nonetheless they were there) which left me frantically trying to find local delivery services in the limo. Well, taking a step back I made the decision to get ready at the hotel because the venue charged $600 to get ready there plus $50 a person for every person over 7,  which was just silly in my mind since we also couldn’t start until 11 then and my makeup artist had to leave at 2:30. The logistics of the day were wonk and as we were an hour behind schedule everything ended up worse. The girls did finally order Panera Bread at the venue and someone went to pick it up for them, so that worked out ok, but it was probably 2pm or later before they ate – which was horrible. The did have a cheese plate at the venue at 1 so people noshed on that but it wasn’t enough. One of my biggest pet peeves as a bridesmaid is not having decent food options in the morning  (because it’s a super long day) and I managed to fail at planning this appropriately. If I had a coordinator they would have made sure this was done without me even thinking about it.
  6. A coordinator would have helped with other little things throughout the night… so many little things that I could have asked them to fix and it would have been done, or, if they were really good, they would have thought about this in advance and I wouldn’t have noticed them in the first place.

Now, granted, there are so many different coordinators out there, and not all of them are both talented at wrangling neurotic Jewish mothers while aesthetically altering venue decorations and making the call to remove cheapo fabric from the arch or recommending in advance not to put it on there in the first place and being able to run around and make sure my damn overpriced Swarovski necklace wasn’t off center in all the pictures — I didn’t believe I could find someone who was capable of all these things, so I decided not to hire anyone. I should have spend much less on the flowers at put the saving into a coordinator. That was my biggest mistake.

The dress itself was a headache from the get go and I spent too much on it and I think I looked horrible. My groom loved it and thought I looked great, and others said the same, but I can barely look at pictures of myself in this dress… it’s that bad. Now, I don’t have the world’s greatest body image but I frequently like myself in nice dresses. Not so in this dress. First off – it was strapless, which was one of the things I didn’t want in a wedding dress because only girls with rail-thin anorexic bodies look ok in strapless dresses… and I’m not one of those girls. Strapless dresses also have to fit just right to not fall down but then also not make you budge in all the wrong places. The tailor at my dress shop didn’t seem to understand this and she first made it too loose and then tightened it to the point where all you can see is my back fat. The dress itself is worthy of its own post at some point because the dress shop was a nightmare to deal with and I spent $7000 on my wedding dress which is crazy and I expected that after spending so much I’d have a good experience in alterations and finally be happy on my wedding day but not so much. I do have expensive taste (surprise) and really it’s a fucking scam the wedding dress industry as $2000 dresses are pieces of shit and to get a dress that is made nicely with good fabric you have to pay $5k plus OR find a used dress/sample. I wanted to get a used dress but then I worried that it would cause unnecessary issues so I splurged and spent $7k and – had the dress been perfect or close to it, I’d say, yea, it was worth it – but… I just look silly in it. And my chest/back/arms aren’t flattered by the shape, nor is the rest of my body. I lost 30 pounds for my wedding and I look at the pics (*not the professional pics yet – hopefully those will be better) and just see fat arms and a fat back and fat chest. Yes, they’d be there in another dress – but had it fit better / had I ordered a dress with straps and a more flattering neckline / had the tailor figured out how to fit it to me properly – maybe it would have looked less awful. I’m bummed about the dress. I hope there are a handful of pictures from the professional photographer where the angles make me look better. I worry I booked the wrong photographer because he didn’t seem to be working angles so much and I should have just booked one of the female photographers who understand how to pose women to make them look good. This photographer I hired is very talented but he typically works with thin NY brides who would look good from any angle. I’m worried I won’t have one picture that I feel good about. The pictures come back in about two weeks now… I’m a little scared at this point, because that’s the only thing we keep with us from the wedding other than our memories (and the video, which we get in six months, and that will undoubtedly feature the starring character of my fat rolls and double chin) — but it is what it is. I don’t HAVE to look at our wedding pictures or video ever. I’m just bummed because I wanted to look beautiful on our wedding day and I hate how I looked. My hair was weird and falling down and my veil was put in the wrong place and slightly off center and it all went so fast I didn’t have time to stop and adjust myself or stand better or anything.

I almost want to have another wedding to fix all these things – except, thank fucking g-d I’m never getting married again. That’s the one good thing to come of all this… it’s done, and we’re quite committed to never getting divorced, and I don’t have to ever do this again (except when my hypothetical future children get married and I hope I can use this knowledge to help ensure they actually can enjoy their weddings.)

Anyway, I’m married. I was surprised how different it felt… it really does feel like things have changed. I don’t know. They have and they haven’t. We still live together in the same apartment. We still say the same things to each other. I still have to go to work in the morning and he still works from home and wakes up late and stays up all night. So what really has changed? We’re keeping our finances separate for now (at least on paper) so nothing is majorly different. But it feels like I’m, well, married. I guess the biggest change is that we want to have kids and we always had said we’d wait until we were married and now there’s nothing really between us and the having kids phase of our lives other than actually getting pregnant (which will be challenging with my PCOS and maybe impossible – but nonetheless there’s nothing stopping us from trying now.) So maybe that is what feels different… because I’m old-ish (I’ll be 33 in November – fuck.) And, you know, baby-making years are limited. And although I am so immature I also feel ready to have a kid. And, moreso, I want two or three kids (at least two) and while I have time to have the first one, it’s going to get tough when I want to spread out having a second a little bit. I see my friend with her crazy three year old who is now pregnant with her second and I think god how hard it is to have two so close together – and that’s not even that close together, that’s really four years apart. If I manage to get pregnant when I’m 33 then I’ll have my first at 34… which means trying for my second pretty soon thereafter. I probably won’t end up having three – which is fine – I’d be happy with two (or one for that matter, but I really want two) — and… I still don’t know logically how this all works (can’t afford house here / job situation not going well / I can’t imagine working this type of job and being a mother / I think we have to leave this area to a place that’s more affordable / we’ll figure it out when we have kids I guess?) — but, anyway, what really changed is now there’s nothing between not being pregnant and being pregnant (other than getting pregnant) now that we’re married. We could have achieved that for a lot less than $70,000… and it would have come with a lot less stress and headaches and regrets… but then again, there were so many magical, unforgettable, priceless moments at my wedding that I think, in the end, it was worth it.

How to Not Get Divorced and Have a Happy Marriage

Sorry, folks. I don’t know the silver bullet to a long, happy marriage. I do know that while 50% of Americans end up in a divorce, a large chunk of those who remain married do so unhappily. While marriage isn’t a requirement of a fulfilled, happy life – for many of us, having a lifelong partner is a key factor in our emotional and even financial stability. I used to be opposed to marriage as an old-fashioned idea steeped in religion and generally designed to make women a property of a man. Today, engaged to be married, I’m looking forward to that next stage of commitment. After nearly 10 years of dating, it’s time to lock this in forever.

Unfortunately, for MANY people, marriage isn’t forever. I spent last week “hanging out” with my 50-years young aunt and her either unhappily married or divorced besties. These women, all in their late 40s/early 50s, were all uniquely depressed, and the conversation reminded me why, if I have anything to do about it, I won’t be alone at that age (knock on wood.) It intrigues me how everyone is selfish by nature, and that happy marriages are largely the result of two people willing to be aware of their selfish tendencies and to compromise around many things that, in single life, would not be acceptable. Furthermore, the stress on a marriage that having kids brings is immense, and if the parents do not see eye-to-eye about this, they may be doomed to crumble – as no one wants to think about an intimate evening post fighting about their child’s behavior and what to do about it.

I grew up in a very unhappy, abusive household. My parents, now in their 60s, are still married – but rarely go a day without my father telling my mother, in a not-so-nice tone, that she’s a, and I quote, “fucking idiot.” They are not the spitting image of a good marriage or even a decent one. And both of my mother’s sisters are divorced and not remarried. This tells me a lot about the mentality in that side of the family – one which lacks empathy for others. It makes sense since the three sisters grew up with a very narcissistic mother and each of them have pretty much ended up with narcissists because it’s the only relationship dynamic which feels comfortable to them – the youngest, dating a man who is infinity self-absorbed and incapable of commitment; the middle sister, committed, not married to a man who is not exactly the warm and fuzzy type in terms of being open to people who do not fit his limited view on an acceptable human being (but maybe that’s just because he’s French); and my mother, of course, with my “can do no wrong” father who blames the world for all the problems but never can blame himself for anything.

Without self awareness, I don’t know if it’s possible for people like this to have a sustainable happy marriage. What we’re attracted to is not always best for such arduous happiness. Marriage is work, they say, and it’s true. I see some young couples I worry are headed in the wrong direction. I look at friends who do not seem to be able to talk about serious matters to each other. Friends who are married to men who are mama’s boys and who are worried that when their child is born they will be left alone to do all the housework along with childcare and returning to work. I worry about my friends who don’t talk about their finances, where one partner is stressed about work and the other is firmly committed to not worry about money or how it is spent. I worry about a couple who fight all the time with two young children present, who no longer find time to love each other, who maybe will never be fully happy, at least due to the presence of each other.

And then I look at my own relationship — nine-and-a-half  years is almost like marriage in its own right. We live together and split some of our bills, so it definitely feels like more than just dating despite nothing legally tying us together just yet. And I love him more than anything and we get into little tiffs every now and again but generally we can have open conversations about important things and we get along pretty well as long as I don’t focus too much on the serious all the time and we can enjoy musing on absurdities of the world together. I know that for my own marriage to work, it will be a lot of work. I have to change my ways – the many things I don’t like about myself to begin with, so I’m ok with that. First, I need to keep my household clean, and uncluttered. Second, I need to find a job where I can not constantly worry about getting fired and be super depressed all the time (he isn’t so much worried about the loss of the income as he is my constant bad mood about 5-6 months into any new job.) And I need to focus on trying to feel like a woman who can be desirable instead of sabotaging myself with my very low self esteem and body image. If I could do all three of these things and not chew so loudly (he is very sensitive to food noises) and be ready on time when we’re going out instead of always 10-15 minutes late, I think he’ll be very happy with me in our marriage. That’s really ALL I have to focus on doing. The rest comes naturally. Being aware of these things doesn’t mean they  are easy to do, but I know they are flaws in my character and things I need to work on anyway.

But marriages can fall apart when one person is aware of the things that upset the other person and feels they are putting an effort in to resolving these things, when the other person doesn’t make an effort or a strong enough effort to show the other person they are doing the same. This pain point in marriages can be exacerbated by the fact that so married couples just don’t talk about things. Sure, it’s easy to ask someone to clean the house, but it’s less easy for a working parent to share with a stay-at-home parent that they are too stressed out in their job and want to move into a position with less pay and less expectations. Or – things as silly as I miss when we used to get dressed up and go on dates, and now I only see you in your crappy clothes that don’t fit well at home because you’re tired all the time and quite frankly so am I. This is why marriages fall apart. People stop putting in the effort. They start becoming passive aggressive to each other on purpose or accident. That once-novel romance story has turned into a nightmare. And so many men and women get past the point of no return. They can no longer look at each other and understand how they were attracted to the other person in the first place. They long to move on to something new, something where the weight of all the years of passive aggression, poof, disappears, and they can start fresh. They can look at another person and see them not as the man who forgot to take the garbage out or the woman who was too tired from her job to be the exciting, passionate woman she once was. Starting fresh is easier than mending a wounded relationship, in theory, at least.

Divorcees are usually not happy either. Few people can manage being happy and being alone, especially after being in a committed relationship for many years. In spending time with these 40-year-old and 50-year-old divorced or unhappily married women, I wonder if there is any piece of the failings of their marriage that they see as their own faults, or if all the blame is on their former partners, or both. The common thread of conversation is that “he’s awful,” “he’s lazy,” “he’s unhelpful around the house,” et al. Or maybe there were just huge fights about how to raise the children that were unexpected which led to two people who couldn’t manage to love each other let alone spend time together. There’s a musical with a song that asks “When was Dividing Day” that is about divorce. No one goes into marriage wanting to or expecting to get a divorce, or to fall out of love. I wonder if it’s possible for two people to be so aware of their own flaws and especially the ones that rub the other person the wrong way, and to just hyperfocus on changing these behaviors as to always show the other person that you care to be the best person you can be for them. And, the second part of that is for the other person to do the same, all while being verbally appreciative of those changes in behavior, not just accepting them as part of the status quo, when the other person is still working very hard to be a better man/woman for the other person. If two people can do that, I think that a happy marriage is possible. But it requires us to go from our selfish, childish ways to becoming real adults — giving up our wants for the better of someone else, as long as that someone else is doing the very same for us. It won’t always be perfect, but as long as expectations are reasonable and two people really love each other, I want to believe it’s possible, and I want to try. I want to be the old couple that celebrates their 50th wedding anniversary with the same sparkle in our eyes that we have now when we look at each other, and see the man who I fell in love with, and who I’ll always love.

Divorce is Expensive (Especially with Kids in the Picture)

This past weekend I was helping my aunt figure out her budget and set up a Mint.com account. She was recently laid of from her long-time job, which wouldn’t have been a big issue years ago when she was still married with a household income of over $300,000. But going through her budget, suddenly even $10,000 a month of after-tax income looked very tight.

It certainly doesn’t help matters that my aunt lives in a very expensive part of the country. She now rents a lovely (yet small) 3br/2ba house for about $3400 a month (which isn’t that bad considering I currently pay $2350 for a one bedroom (my town is just even more expensive than hers.) She has a sizable amount saved up thanks to her marriage (and no prenup, worked out in her favor) but without a job she still could burn through that well before retirement age (she’s in her early 50s now.)

Continue reading

My Goal: $500k Networth Before Kids

I’m terrified of having children before some sort of financial stability. While $500k networth does not mean financial independence, I think I’ll start to relax a bit once I hit this major life goal (the others are 2 kids, 1 house, + $1M by 40 and $3.5M by 65 all while being able to travel and see the world on occasion.)

This chart assumes that each year I can make an average 5% off my existing networth (figure shown below = the networth at the beginning of the year.) I reduce my monthly savings in 2017, at age 33, assuming some of that money will be going towards my first child!

Year Age interest 401k invest Networth
2014 30 $12500 $17,500 $36,000 $250000
2015 31 $15,800 $17,500 $36,000 $316,000
2016 32 $19,265 $17,500 $36,000 $385,300
2017 33 $22,903 $17,500 $30,000 $458,065
2018 34 $26,423 $17,500 $30,000 $528,468
2019 35 $30,120 $17,500 $30,000 $602,392
2020 36 $34,001 $17,500 $30,000 $680,011
2021 37 $38,076 $17,500 $30,000 $761,512
2022 38 $42,354 $17,500 $30,000 $847,087
2023 39 $46,847 $17,500 $30,000 $936,942
2024 40 $51,564 $17,500 $30,000 $1,031,289

This chart offers the same savings plan but at a better rate of return: 10%. Here I reach my $1M goal early by 38. Continue reading

Buy vs Rent: A New Thought

We’re moving in together. For real this time. For better or worse, we found out the place he’s currently living in is not a legal dwelling and thus he must move out. We were planning on moving in together this year, but this also expedites the planning and upcoming move.

While it might be dumb to consider buying something together now, I have a few ideas that could make this concept be more logical than irrational. Even though I occasionally mention moving back east at some point, the reality is that I want to stay in The Bay Area. I want to live here forever and have my kids born and grow up here. Continue reading

It’s Not Impostor Syndrome

As I’ve been thinking more lately about the next 5-10 years of my career, I’m trying very hard to be confident in my abilities yet realistic. Everyone talks about “Impostor Syndrome” these days, thanks to Sheryl Sandberg (who clearly suffers from a case of it herself), but that’s not what I’m facing. Or maybe, a teeny tiny bit of my struggles is self-doubt and feelings of being and impostor, but most of that feeling is fact, supported by hard evidence. While I have some learned skills and natural talents, I’m not prepared for any sort of next step in my career – whether that be a step up, step sideways, or even down.

I’ve read numerous job listings, applied to a few just to see if I could get any bites, even partook in a couple of interviews as an exercise. While I’m not devastated that none of them landed at an offer (I am focused on adding value in my current role at least for the next year), I’m also hyper aware that I’m not setting myself up for long-term success.

This is not the first time I’ve written about this, of course, but every day that goes forward is another day passing where I imagine a future for myself of under or unemployment. Yes, I can definitely take steps to improve my prospects, but I feel like I need to commit to a clear direction before I move forward.

My social anxiety and general anxiety is crippling, yet I hate using that as an excuse. But any job that requires constant nurturing of numerous social relationships is not for me. This pretty much excludes most, if not all, senior-level marketing and business development functions. There is a small space for someone like myself as an expert in content production and data analysis, the later area which I can certainly improve in, but I’m not sure I want to spend my life dedicated to hiding in a cubicle crunching numbers.

That leads me back to the question of whether I want to stay in technology to begin with. I completely fell into tech, and I’m glad I did, but it’s also an industry filled with highly intelligent, well-pedigreed individuals who are so talented at learning quickly and effectively to continue optimizing their daily process and deliverables. That said, I do really enjoy working in an industry that values brainpower over fluff. I could have ended up working in media given my background, maybe even having found myself in LA instead of San Francisco after college, and I imagine now I’d be lost in how to move up inside a highly social, “who-you-know” relationship-based industry.

Nonetheless, in Silicon Valley, those who succeed without seriously high IQs are brilliant on the people side, and as I’ve already stated, while I’m an extrovert my social anxiety limits me greatly on this front. I cannot have a job that requires me to go to drinks and sustain conversation with a business partner, prospect, or industry analyst. I might be able to do this once in a while, and at times enjoy engaging with other people, but the amount of stress it causes each time I imagine must cut into my overall life expectancy.

Even if I was to successfully obtain, say, a content marketing manager job in the future, where does this lead? At 20-something, content marketing is a good role because it exposes you to a lot of areas within marketing and business overall, and then you can pick which to pursue. That said, a good content marketer looking to move up the food chain will have similar options (and limitations) to what I have today. The content marketer could just build out a team of content writer in a large organization and manage global content strategy – which is a good and important job but seems to end at that. I don’t think I’d feel fulfilled in a role limited to content creation. Or, the content writer could move into a more external-facing role, but I’ve already discussed that I’m not suited for such a position.

Work is work, yes, and no job is perfect. It’s possible over the next 10 years, when/if I have a family I’ll realize that my “kids” are what’s most important and my job requirements will shift dramatically. Perhaps then becoming a terminal content marketing manager with clear deliverables and reliable hours will seem more than palatable. Or then I could freelance as a writer and charge heaping fees for each document I create, which by then would be high-quality due to years of high velocity output for some global 2000 technology organization. Maybe I need to tell the little girl voice who wants to change the world to shut up because it’s time she grow up and find a stable, albeit unsexy career. I’ve spent too long at startups that no one has heard of, and this makes me unemployable.

This is what goes into getting hired in a non-technical position in Silicon Valley, from most to least important:

  1. Pedigree: Where did you go to school and what company’s have you worked at in the past? What was your degree(s) in? One successful company that is respected, even if you spend just one year there, helps greatly. (If there were some pedigree score on resumes from 1-10 I’d say at this point I have about a 2.5.)
  2. Analytics Savvy: Can you speak data? What results have you generated from your work and how did you measure them? How can you use data to add more value to an organization?
  3. Social Skills: Are you able to maintain a hour-long conversation with different types of people on topics ranging from how great they are to last week’s football game? Do you come off as not somewhere on the autism spectrum*? (*The tech industry has plenty of room for people who are brilliant aspies, but mostly in technical roles. However, if you are very strong in analytics than this is acceptable and expected even in a non-technical role.
  4. Writing Ability: Can you write in complete sentences? Have you ever created any collateral which drove quantifiable results (sales revenue metrics are best if you can figure out how to measure this.)
  5. What Have You Done? If you pass all of the qualifying items above, then, and only then, does what you’ve actually accomplished matter.

So if I want to stay in Silicon Valley I need to work on at least #1 and #2. I’ll never be strong at #3. I’m ok at #4 and can focus on improving this in my current role. For #2, I want to figure out how to become a quant-minded marketer. I’m trying to get the right analytics set up to measure goals and such, but I don’t know where to start. For #1, well, I think my goal needs to be really beefing up my analytical skills in order to obtain my next position at an established, soon-to-IPO startup. I desperately need that at-least one year of a success on my resume to be taken seriously in the Valley. Alternately, if this still proves impossible, I could get an MBA in order to get into one of those “just about to be successful” companies, but that requires getting into a Stanford or Harvard, which is just as hard if not harder (esp as a 30-something.)

So I just am taking a hard look at myself and my future to decide how badly I want this. It’s not like if I go into another industry suddenly I’ll have a clear career path and not have to work at it, but I have a feeling that outside of tech there’s a bit more opportunity for people who aren’t former valedictorians and student council presidents. I definitely can make something of myself here – I feel I’ve established a wavering baseline of competency as a tech marketer – but it’s going to be a lifelong uphill battle. Yes, it’s even harder as a woman, with few female role models at the top to look up to (not that I’m a typical woman and not that I get along with women anyway, but it is what it is. There are additional unspoken limitations when you are female and cannot have a close yet informal mentor relationship with a senior executive without dirty looks from fellow employees.)

I really need to figure out how much I want this. And what is “this” that I want?

Well, this is what I want, but can I get a job that fulfills this, and how on earth to I pivot from communications to something that does:

  • To create a product or experience that many other people use and that improves their lives
  • To be able to get to the end of my life, look back, and think of all the great things that I’ve built (or been a part of building)
  • To disrupt industries that are inefficient and limit value to the everyday person
  • Enough money to afford a house, infertility treatments for 2-3 kids plus the resulting 2-3 kids, international vacations at mid-tier resorts
  • Time to spend with my future family, traveling, painting, writing
  • Being around smart, witty people all day and laughing whenever possible
  • *Or, maybe, I just want to take a road trip to anywhere, picking up stories and experiences, and become an author, somehow, and creating stories that address psychological and sociological issues generated by our current and future technologies and economies… hmm.